01 July 2008

Book 9: Invincible

Legacy of the Force: Invincible
Troy Denning

13 May 2008

Tragically anemic finale

What strikes you most about this final volume of the Legacy of the Force is how little there is to it. Weighing in at a slight 299 pages, Invincible consists largely of two long duels between Jaina and Jacen, interspersed with a pair of subplots involving Ben. The epilogue attempts to tie things up with a couple of quick stitches, a hastily tacked-on conclusion that leaves the nine-volume saga incomplete.

One is left with the impression that the manuscript was completed in a rush. It reads like an extended outline - all plot, no character, no theme. The major event of the book, and perhaps the series, is the death of a Sith. How does it feel when one of these Dark Lords leaves the force? How does it feel to a family member? How does it feel to the Sith himself? What happens to Jacen in the force? Was he redeemed by his last minute thought for his daughter? Does he become a ghost, like his grandfather? What's the reaction on Coruscant? On Corellia? On Korriban? Among the Jedi? How does Luke feel? How about Tenel Ka? Allana? Ben? Tahiri? We can only imagine. Denning doesn't tell us.

Nor does he suggest what it all means. We never knew what Jacen wanted, beyond bringing order to the galaxy. But as the disorder was instigated and exacerbated by the Sith, he dies playing a fool's game. How is one to regard this galactic tragedy? What do the other characters learn from this? How has the Star Wars universe changed?

The political end is given about as much thought as the beginning and concludes in just a couple of pages with a New Galactic Alliance. Once Jacen is gone, all appears to be forgiven and forgotten. One of the central characters of the series, Admiral Niathal, is completely missing from the story. The reigns of state are passed to a character who shows up at the last moment and whose appointment appears to be a set-up for the next series of Galactic Tyrant vs Jedi novels.

Where there was so much that could have been developed, we get instead material that should have been left on the editor's desk, such Jaina and Leia chasing a paddy wagon across Coruscant to rescue Ben. The sequence is made possible by the thinnest of contrivances, the Jedi mind trick, and concludes with no rescue and no discernible effect on the plot.

Equally inconsequential is the introduction of a new force power, one potent enough to stop Jacen with a figurative blink of any eye. Shatterpoint (from the novel of the same name) is an ability once attributed only to Mace Windu, to be able to exploit stress points in any given substance or phenomena. Jacen uses it to crack beskar, a metal impervious to even lightsabers. Jaina learns the power from Luke in a matter of days. But it's never used. If Luke, Jaina and Jacen all have this ability, why bother with space battles and lightsabers? Just burst your opponent's heart, or crack open their spaceship, and the game is over.

I usually enjoy Denning's writing, but he's absolutely flat here. The jokes at the beginning of each chapter was a silly idea. Not only because the jokes are bad, but because they make an obvious and trite point - everyone is innocent at some point in their life - and because they served as an excuse for Denning to not have to make an honest attempt at writing a tragic ending. Invincible has no sense of gravitas, no weight, no heft, no feeling that something worth nine novels has happened. It feels light, hurried, rushed, abrupt and empty.